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Volume IV

Celtic Forest

 

The lives of Rebecca and Mayumi become entwined with the life of an ancient Celtic girl as they spend their gap year on an archaeological dig in southern England.  What seems like an innocuous find in an ancient burial site becomes part of a treasure hunt across England to the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in a race against time to prevent a series of ritual murders that mask the theft of the Top Ten Treasures of the British Museum.

 

 

I am the wind that breathes upon the sea

I am the wave of the ocean

I am the murmur of the billows

I am the ox of the seven combats

I am the vulture upon the rocks

I am a beam of the sun

I am the fairest of plants

I am a wild boar in valour

I am a salmon in the water

I am a lake in the plain

I am a word of science

I am the point of the lance of battle

I am the God who created in the head the fire

Who is it who throws light into the meeting on the mountain?

Who announces the ages of the moon?

Who teaches the place where couches the sun? (If not I?)

 

The Mystery, according to the oral tradition, was written by Amergin, a Milesian poet who came to Ireland hundreds of years before Christ:

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Prologue

Celtic Forest

 

 

 

I

Stay with me

Lay with me

Come walk in the forest

Feel the breeze

Shuffle the leaves

Come walk in the forest

 

II

I imagined a forest in various greens

Quaint and damp, dark and lush

Hidden from view in deepened hush

You lie in wait before their rush

For not all was as it seemed it seems

 

III

Surrender not young sacrifice

What need you of crucifixion for immortality?

Who requires resurrection immediately?

Though fame will come when all is done

As it is you who belong to eternity

Just as they desired it to be

If only they knew…

 

IV

Run rabbit run

Through dangling clawing leaf and branch

O’er damp and slimy leaf and branch

Time may endure if fate perchance

Leads you from the sun

 

V

Will family come to save the day

Or is this for you the chosen end?

Forested in this frightful den

No friends will lend a hand for you

To pay for all, it seems you’re destined

For you as the chosen be bereft of friend

To appease the will of the Gods

 

VI

Run rabbit run for nothing like the sun

Will come ‘twixt destiny and time

Will come ‘twixt reason and rhyme

Is this perchance a worrying sign?

It’s the rabbit whose time has come

 

VII

All about of twisted vines

I’ve grown by firelight amongst its rhymes

Subsistence, though, consumes our minds

And although my childhood was the best of times

Perhaps it was just a dream?

 

I’ve seen this forest glade grow old

I’ve seen it before our labours did diminish

It’s shelter we fear but we use it as we wish

To conquer our fears we created this blemish

To house the fires where our stories be told

 

Like many mine is but a simple tale

I’ve grown, I’ve learnt, I’ve roamed the fields

That here about our livelihood yields

The seeds that feed the men with shields

Who take of us as our youth doth fail

 

For me there is but naught to learn

The Sage and Time my hands have followed

I entrust my mind with all that’s hallowed

Before my facely hue is sallowed

And woven all my talents can discern

 

All about of twisted vines

We talk about and sing its rhymes

Do they depict the best of times

That dance about our fire lit minds

Or are they just a dream?

 

For with me and my girlish locks

A youth I’ve spent with chores not play

A wife I will be some springtime day

For all I learn doth pave this way

As seasons pass our looks time mocks

 

For in recent times I feel as if old

No more I’m rushing through the forest here

Why is it now the boys stay clear?

I used to be the pop’lar dear

Who was chased and rolled in fields of gold

 

Doth time draw round a ghostly sphere?

Is this the way it’s meant to be?

For all I’ve learnt I’m ready to be

And all my wares are here to see

For one to choose to be my dear

 

All about of twisted vines

We watch and walk and weave its rhymes

Is this to be a newer time

As a change of season sends its signs

Or is this just a churlish dream?

 

 

VIII

The day about has been so true

But sheepish smiles and solemn goodbyes

Pass from those near and dear in sighs

And from the sadness deep in their eyes

Do you spy a selfishly greedy hue?

 

IX

I see your life before them flicker

And staring into the fire I could

See them dancing there evil ‘twixt good

And melt into a fiery wicker

Friends and foe together blend

As one to plot your sacrificial end

Before the God’s of natures wrath

 

X

Run rabbit run

They think they’ve won and they very nearly have you

You think you know them but are you sure that you do

Their hands claw at you as the branches do

For they have chosen you as the one

 

XI

Rewind her hands and bind them tight

Then kneel her down and bow her head

Unto the Gods then make her dead

For she will gather moss and grace

To face that kind of certain future

Where life and earth make warmth in suture

For they who doth relinquish her return her to the dust

 

XII

Within this forest fore’er she lay

And here abouts in the memory of trees

Do you see her face in the skeletons of the rotting leaves

Or is she but an echo in the breeze?

Forsake her not and make her dear to all that see her where she lay

 

XIII

Lay with me

Night’n’day with me

Come walk in the forest

Feel peace with ease

Knee deep in the leaves

Come walk in the forest…

 

Chapter One

Scenes From An Italian Restaurant

 

 I love to jog up ancient roads, across cobbled stones and through ancient causeways where sages of old and painters and poets reflected on fields that roll into hills and crags that drop onto ancient wave beaten shores.  These are hills and shores that have seen so many eyes and been trod by so many a foot from sandal and boot and thong and hoof… I dream in green and listlessly I slide back deep into my thoughts surrounded as I am not by those mythical dreamy hills, but by a land that has seen 40,000 years of eyes and feet!  These ancient fields amongst which I have grown up have not been trodden by near so many feet as those in my dreams or been dug so very deep or been drawn so many times by hand or by word – yet they are so much older to have been seen by far fewer eyes (roll on modern tourismo – a void here awaits you…)

 Some local archaeologists (this term seems almost laughable and quite redundant given the context of Australia, but then the past is the past however long it took to get there!)  Anyway, these aforementioned Archaeologists dug a few kilometres from here twenty years or so back and they dutifully sifted through a couple of metres of rubble and refuse.  Not very inspiring stuff you might think, but they did discover a timeline that stretched back 150 years through bottles and combs and plates – amongst brothels and sly grog shops and hovels – through coins and clay pipes and waste.  Fascinating stuff really – the things we so frivolously dispose of that end up as treasured items in glass cases in the foyers of modern hotels that perch above the ruins or in the seemingly endless echoing halls of dusty museums!

 I’ve dug very similar trenches in fields and towns all around the world only to discover timelines of antiquities that date back two to three thousand years!!!  Don’t misconstrue my sentiments here; I love the fields that surround me, the people who populate them and the space we have to stretch out within their expansive confines.  If you were the alternative King of England where would you choose to reside?  Would you covet the damp and drafty palaces and castles with their dreary winters and equally frustrating summers, would you search out the wide-open spaces of the Australian outback or would you perhaps purchase a quarter acre block in a leafy street somewhere in the suburbs of this great southern land?  I know what I call home even if I haven’t always resided there and I was right amongst it now here in suburban Melbourne.

 All my life I’d been searching for a home and all my life it had been right here waiting for me.  Yet somehow I still felt that I hadn’t quite found it.  I loved this place with my very soul – I loved its multicultural fabrics, its many splendid and authentic cuisines… I loved the variety of spectacular sports and the fact that everyone calls you mate – even if they have only been here for a few years!  I remember one guy I once worked with, his name was Neil, but his actual name was Chen.  He came here, worked and married and raised a family, shared his culture freely and partook of ours equally more so.  He even chose a footy team (unfortunately Carlton) and went every other week, but his visa expired and some stupid bloody official deported him!  Now he lives handsomely in Canada – no doubt he has an ice-hockey team that he goes to see every other week!

 Despite my uncertainty regarding my home – my roots, everything I did lead me back to this place, everything I smelt drew a comparison and every hill I clambered over had its similarities.  I loved and breathed this place, yet others still drew me away from its fascinations!  Perhaps the fact that the girls had grown up and left made me feel the way I did now… I suppose it was just that I hadn’t expected them to leave so soon.  We hadn’t yet been settled for four years here in Melbourne and yet they had already finished high school and deferred university to go and dig in England – where had I heard that story before?  Not that it really bothered me, it was a great opportunity for them both and they had worked extremely hard over the last two years to finish high school despite everything that had happened to them before that.

 Not that I didn’t keep myself relatively busy and I did have my friends here of course.  Asim and his family had settled well here and it was due to him that I found myself where I was tonight.  Dieter and his family seemed to manage a visit at least once a year also and I did have the all-encompassing and ever-present aura of Andrea close by …

 “Dreaming again, Jack?  You know, if you occupied your time with more interesting pursuits you might get more involved in life, especially your own!  You don’t have to spend your time looking after and cooking for me.”

 “Well you are the one with the regular job – taking care of Rebecca’s trust and the Sumner Foundation - and besides, my job of raising the girls and helping them with their homework seems to be complete so what else am I to do if I don’t molly coddle you?”

 “It’s never quite complete Jack, they’ll be back and we’ll have more to do for them… They’ve yet to attempt uni for one and there’s so much more to expect from them in so many other ways as the years go by…”

 “More tears to wipe away and more smiles to enjoy…”

 “Exactly, but that doesn’t mean that you have to mother me, Jack.  That’s never been the deal – I may have slowed up a bit, but I did so to allow you to grow and so as you could help me to as well.  We can still do that even if the girls have left the nest, you know.  It just requires an adjustment or two; and it does mean that we can spend more time snuggling in that nest together, alone!  Besides, all this spare time seems to have fostered a new and interesting interest in you – Jack the connoisseur!  I can’t believe all these wonderful local restaurants you’ve been digging up in the suburbs… how on earth did you find this place?”

 “Gipi’s?  Let me see – well, I always have loved these local Italian restaurants – I love the food they serve up and their unpretentious atmosphere and personalized service.  I love the smell of pizza from their shop front wood fire ovens and the taste of their many blended pastas and sauces… a bottle of red, a bottle of white…”

 “… It all depends upon your appetite!” 1.

 “Ah, quoting songs back at me again!  You’re getting good at that aren’t you, Andrea!  I’m glad… it cements our connection in my own mind.”

 “I’m surprised your confidence is still so fickle, Jack!  There’s always going to be that about you, isn’t there?”

 “Yeah, but at least I can still find a good spot to dig in!”

 “True. It is kind of kitsch though, isn’t it.”

 “What!  You don’t like the pictures of Elvis, the fifties memorabilia, the classic portraits of long dead Hollywood greats like Monroe and Jimmy Dean?  You must like the array of European liqueurs and wines crammed behind the bar and the strains of provincial Italian accents tossed in amongst the Aussie drawl and the ambient sounds of a smokey Sinatra?  This place probably hasn’t changed in thirty years… and that’s exactly how I like it – and all the other Italian, Greek, Chinese, Lebanese, ad infinitum restaurants that permeate the suburbs here about.  Each and every one of them enriching the spirit of my home with the memories and the tastes of theirs and I couldn’t imagine my home without them despite my anglo-aussie background!  Did I ever tell you about the first time I ever dined out at a restaurant?  It was with my Aunt and Uncle from W.A.  They took me out to a local Chinese restaurant in Footscray, but I didn’t like anything on the menu – sweet & sour this, sweet & sour that… ha, it was all far too exotic back then!  That’s certainly not how I’d view the menu now, but at least they satisfied me with my first banana split with fried ice-cream!”

 “How exotic of you, Jack!”

 “Not as exotic as a Chinese restaurant I visited once out in the far western suburbs of Sydney.  They served up Chinese for entrée and a pie with chips as a main… now that’s exotic in an Aussie kind of way – you wouldn’t get that in Melbourne!”

 “I suppose they were catering for their clientele, however uncouth you might think them to be!  But Jack, you still haven’t told me how you found this place!  Since when have you made it a habit of meandering the streets of the Northern Suburbs?”

 “I only came over this way because of Asim.  Just up the hill towards the city from here there’s the huge Preston Mosque that he and his family attend.  I often meet him down at the Preston Market just up the road between here and there for a coffee and a chat.  It’s a different part of Melbourne – slightly more cosmopolitan with an interesting array of foods and fresh ground coffee, yes this is where I find a lot of that fresh and sometimes interesting European and middle eastern style food that I bring home!”

 “You’ve spent so much time over there, it’s sort of ingrained in you my love.  But then so is Australia and all its flavours – conditioning’s a funny thing, isn’t it Jack.  With them both you’ve become quite an eclectic mix – a variety of spices for me to taste on any given day…”

 “I suppose so… so, how’s your pasta?”

 “It reminds me of Venice – the good bits!  The bits where there was just you and me and nobody else.  As much as I love Bec and May, that was the best of times between the two of us.  There were no complications, just two people in love – blind to each other’s weaknesses, blind to the problems in the world around us and too young to be bothered with anything so as to completely indulge in each other – I loved that so… and that’s why I’ve loved the passed month, because all I’ve had to worry about is you.  I can sit here in peace in this quaint little suburban restaurant and soak in its food and its wine and look across into your deeply intense and searching eyes, surrounded as they are by the weathering of the time we’ve both seen flashing by. It’s as if the world has moved on without us in a haze of obscure swirls and there’s just me with you – just like Venice.  And I love that… I wouldn’t change that for the world, so why don’t you lay back in my gaze and enjoy it for a while… we can catch the next train to the rest of the world some other day, it’ll still be there and there’ll always be another train – that much I have learnt from my time with you…”

 She was right. She most often was when it came to me.  We were like two chapters of the same disparate book – she, the intense action and comforting scenes of unbridled lust and joy – me, the sobering narrator and plot manipulator.  The four years since we had found Mayumi and the bell of the Sapporo Maru had been a sobering time, much influenced by our desire to fulfill our role as dutiful and loving parents.  We’d seen to the high school education of our two girls, settled in a cosy inner suburban house and Andrea had become the chief bread winner, negotiating the fortunes of the Sumner Trust.  I occasionally became involved by donning a suit and tie at formal functions or by helping with the computer setup that linked us to the world of the Trust.  This allowed us to remain based in Melbourne and it also allowed Rebecca to grow up as normal as normal could be.  Despite all that Rebecca was actually worth, she lived on a small allowance, enjoyed each birthday for its smaller surprises and longed for the things she’d been hanging out for a year to get.  She would be nineteen soon, but she’d probably spend that night in some pub in southern England near where she was spending the northern summer finding her own right of passage away from the safe confines of suburban Melbourne just as Andrea and I had.

 Although we hadn’t strayed far from Melbourne as a family for four long years – those four long years seemed to have flown by even though at the time they seemed to meander happily; far away from the world with us in a distant tow.  Our recent holidays had been more local adventures to central Australia – climbing the rock, tussling with a stray crocodile or two and finding out what a real knife looked like!  We’d also soaked in the Great Barrier Reef with snorkels and S.C.U.B.A. gear, ran through the tropical summer rain near naked, as the umbrellas couldn’t hold the monstrous raindrops that fell on us, and knocked out the cane toads that infested the tracks as we trod – anybody got a rock splat!  Who needs a theme park when there’s so much naturally to see – except that I’m sure the cane toads aren’t quite as naturally occurring as they might seem given their rampant numbers… hey boys, Sydeney looks nice!

 Somewhere amongst all that Andrea and I also managed to drag the girls to Tasmania and we got to appreciate Wine Glass Bay au naturel, raft down the waterfalls of the Huon River and climb the jagged cliffs of Cradle Mountain.  We’d also introduced Mayumi to the variety that is Victoria – not that I’m particularly biased at all – the coast road and the twelve apostles and the glow worms of Melba Gully in the Otways, the Grampians, the gold fields of Bendigo and Ballarat, and the highlands and its short ski season.  There were also family days to the football and the cricket at the MCG (to watch the grass grow as Andrea would attest most earnestly) and a variety of picnics in open fields and along the upside down river that is the Yarra!

 There was just so much variety in such a small area yet surprisingly, her favourite of all of these adventures was the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island where she blended remarkably well with the bulk of the tourists – quick take a picture, and put away those bloody flashes, the penguins will require sunglasses at night soon!  My Dad once told me how it used to be down at the Summerland Beach at Phillip Island.  How the human visitors would sit on the beautifully soft sandy beach at dusk just by the breaking waves and how the fairy penguins would literally stagger over them with their full waddling bellies to get to their nests in the dunes further up the beach.  Now there are more tourists than penguins!  The tourists are caged in two gigantic concrete stands and the penguins come ashore wielding digital cameras!

.

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 I realized that while we talked about all we had done and all we were that I was beginning to feel better about myself and my supposedly stagnant time here in Melbourne.  We live in a world where we are made to believe that materially we should have everything and anything we want, often to the detriment of the children we bear and of the time we should be spending with them.  We are made to believe that that time with them is wasted as we are not expanding our own personal experiences – of course any fool knows that a growing family is a form of personal expansion and a very rewarding one at that.  The more we talked and the more I mused, the more I realized that I loved this place.  I so loved my life despite some of the more unsavory morsels I’d had to swallow in getting to this scene at this particular Italian restaurant…

 “You shouldn’t be so sad and distant, Jack.  You’ve created a wonderful home for us all with all the variety that you possess.  You should enjoy your own creations, live them and stop drifting around them as if they were memories from some distant past.  You’re not a spectre living in a past life, you are a life – our life, one of us and all of us!”

 “I know, Andrea.  I know I worry more than I live, but I do appreciate all we have and I know I wish we’d had it for longer, but at least we’ve had it – so many don’t even get this much of an opportunity… and realistically, we nearly never had it at all – how lucky are we!”

 “Two of the luckiest people on earth!”

 “You know, I have felt more than comfortable here in this city over the last four years – anonymous, not worthy of attention from anyone else, but you and the girls.  I’m not sure I ever want to leave again… I’m not sure that I want it any other way than exactly how it is right now!”

 “Neither do I, Jack… So, what other culinary surprises do you have planned for me over the next few months?  You do have plans, don’t you?”

 “Oh I’ve got plans.  I’ve found Greek and Vietnamese, Japanese Teppan-yaki and Mongolian barbeque, Indian and Thai and McDonalds!”

 “McDonalds!  You’re not gonna take me to McDonalds?”

“Well, they do have the McThai burger, calamari fingers and wantan pies these days – plus the healthy salads… and now I’m beginning to feel like one of those twenty carat golden arched commercials!  Stop me Andrea, or I’ll sprout red curly hair and begin wearing strange clothes and large floppy shoes.”

 “Somehow I don’t think so!  They’ve been pushing those healthy salads and parental friendly food for years, Jack… and I’m still not convinced.  But I will go for a Happy Meal toy if you’re prepared to buy me that!

 “You’re in luck, Andrea.  This week they’ve got toys from Shrek 10 a tale from the nose – it’s not easy being green!  Speaking of kids and kids meals, I’ve just remembered something!  All this drifting and dreaming almost made me forget!  We got mail – real mail, not email or text messages, but a real pick-up-a-pen-hand-written-stick-a-stamp-on-it-and-get-glue-on-your-tongue letter!”

 “From our girls?”

 “From our girls – your Happy Meal quip reminded me that I’d stuffed it in my jacket pocket as I’d left home on the way to pick you up in town!”

 “Well get it out – read it already… or have you already?”

 “No!  Would I dare do that?”

 “No you wouldn’t – you’re such a sweety.  Should we read it here?  I think we should… go on Jack, open it up…”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

Island Girl

 

 I took the slightly crumpled letter out of my inside jacket pocket; it seemed to have been addressed hurriedly, but then I’m sure that they had many more important things to attend to other than their parents – like pubs, parties, sight seeing and dare I say it… boys!  The letter was surprisingly thick considering all these probabilities and as I quickly flicked through its pages, much to Andrea’s annoyance, I realized that the various pages had been written at different times and by two different hands…

 

March 28th

  Dear Mum & Dad,

 Glad you got our emails, sorry we haven’t written more so far.  Mayumi and I decided to write a page or so a week so you’d have a better idea of what we’re up to (and so you’d help us remember it better later!) (There’s been so many cold evenings spent at the local pubs – and the beer here’s so thick and warm, but then you’d both know that!)

 Since we’ve been too busy (sic lazy) to write a proper diary we thought we’d send you back to the very beginning because as you know…

 So read on McDuff & McDuff…

 

March 9th

 (This was actually the original first page of the letter as we began it – as you’ve probably already guessed we wrote the previous one later!) (Is that too many as’s – I fear Dad is correcting this as he reads!)

 So, we landed in London on March the 2nd and I’m sure the customs officer muttered something about another bloody Aussie under his breath, but Mayumi reckons I’m just being paranoid.  It’s certainly different rocking up to Gatwick as an ordinary old economy class backpacker compared to coming in on one of Liz’s private jets (I can’t get used to saying they’re mine – or that it’s my inheritance), but we eventually got through customs – no cavity search, but we did get to be viewed bone naked!  Then we caught the train into Victoria Station where we got some photo I.D. transport passes and headed back out on the tube to Ealing Common where we bunked in at the back of a lovely little suburban cottage that’s on the main road with the station – and there’s double decker buses and cute little old London cabs driving passed constantly.  It’s funny you know, I’ve been here so many times, but never on public transport and never not staying in swish hotels – it’s quite homey really and Mr. Dickenson who owns the place is always out in his veggie garden in only his white singlet sweating and saying how hot it is – I don’t think it’s reached 22°C yet - cool!!! Not!!!

 We spent this first week doing all the typical tourist things – even though we’ve done a lot of them before with you guys.  It was still quite fun – and some things have changed quite considerably in the last few years.  So we assume you got the postcards and you probably know about Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London – lurv those beefeater dudes, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s, Harrods and ol’ Charlie’s’ p’lace!!!

 There seem to be Aussies everywhere – and groups of French school children!  It’s hard to believe they’re probably on a day trip or a camp – I don’t think any of our excursions got out of the state!!!  Anyway it all makes us feel a bit like we’re home and only a phone call away – hopefully we’ll write again next week.  Nothing much else to report that you’d be interested in, or would really rather not hear… lurv from us both…

 B & M  (Sounds like some sort of erotic abbreviation… we’ll have to work on that one!  And wonder why abbreviation is such a long word!)

March 15th

 Mayumi says this letter writing once a week thing is way too regimented of me.  She reckons the Japanese are supposed to be the overtly structured ones, not we layabout Aussies… although there are those inherited British-type things like marching up and down in a line and punk rocking!  And they still have punks here in London, but they’re all aged 70 or more now – the chains dangle a little too low and the men don’t have enough hair for a Mohawk!

 Such experiences during my time in London have given me a fresh insight into my heritage and I’ve discovered the missing link!  Punks wear army boots and fatigues and have uniformed, if slightly unorthodox, hairstyles – just like the army.  It’s kind of eerie really, but we all just want to be loved and feel as if we’re a part of something – and there’s also the anger thing and killing and fighting that links the two of them as well… Perhaps this is an odd parallel world where the ultra disciplined and the supposedly undisciplined become so extreme that they blur into the same thing – mirroring each other from a distance – they become the distant edges of the spectrum reflecting each other’s disparity from afar – yet near!

 Mayumi thinks I’ve gone mad!  Perhaps it’s the fresh air… she envisages me in a straightjacket sitting huddled in the corner of a padded room making origami figures with my toes!  The worrying thing is that Dad normally writes like this – is that hereditary or is that too much coffee or is there something more to that brown sludge he slurps!  The only brown sludge we’ve been into lately is the English beer!  Ah, what we’d give for a cool lager – although given the weather here, a warm beer seems oddly appropriate!

 We’ve left London now as you’ve probably again guessed (the narrative’s not too precise is it… it seems to be meandering around the place as we are around the English countryside) and we’re here in Wiltshire, which comes complete with green rolling hills, ancient roads and causeways, and the odd standing stone or three hundred!  Quick, take a picture – yes, I know Mayumi, I’m doing it again!  I love all these English names like Wiltshire, Devonshire – any one for tea, and Gloucestershire – but they’re so odd to pronounce; how do you get Glostersheer from Gloucestershire – at least they make good sauce!

 Mayumi and I presented ourselves at the British Museum a week ago as part of our volunteer archaeologist induction and we were promptly sent down here to a dig on a Wiltshire estate.  It’s an interesting idea – they’re doing a follow up dig on a Celtic site that was previously excavated some twenty years or so ago.  Apparently the story goes like this… some wealthy guy (who am I calling wealthy) decided to put a lake in his backyard because there were too many beautiful rolling hills and fields of green there. Mind you, it is a lovely lake, but while they were digging it they found a skeleton – ooo, scary eh!  The owner thought he was going to be charged with murder because the body had been buried in a kneeling position with its head to the ground and its hands bound behind its back!!!

 Ritual sacrifice rumours roamed the countryside however, after they tested the bones they realized that the skeleton dated back a couple of millennia or so, so they called in the archaeologists instead and that’s where we come in - sort of!!!  You see, after the burial was examined they gave the skeleton back to the community to do with as they saw fit… the locals decided to re-inter her and so the wealthy owner of the property built an island in the middle of the lake just for the girl – oh, I forgot that part.  Apparently the skeleton was that of a girl who was much the same age as Mayumi and I are right now – spooky eh?

 Looking out from the island on our first day I tried to imagine what the dead girl might have seen from here before she died.  There may have been a forest here then, if so she wouldn’t have seen much at all – unlike the fairly spacious green rolling hills that we can see now adorned by their small scattered clumps of trees, but I do know that the same ancient landmarks like Stonehenge would have existed and they would have been ancient even to her people.  I wonder how different that was back then – I’m sure a few more of the lintels were still in place and some of the standing stones as well!  I wonder if her people knew of it or used it or even revered it as we do now?

 Our job here was to re-examine her skeleton with more modern techniques, there being a big emphasis on learning at this dig.  I actually think they would rather trial us on a pre-dug site and keep our blundering boots out of something new and undiscovered – and I think the rest of our group feel the same way!  There’s six in our training group – all girls except the one guy, Jules!  We spent most of this week learning how to plot a dig and then we actually began excavating the site, but I’m sure we weren’t as careful as we should have been as this is a re-interred find.

I think that the measurements and the composition of her bones and the reconstruction of her face from cranial measurements are the main aims of the dig beyond the teaching aspect of learning how to dig out a site precisely and carefully.  I also think that the Museum wants to ascertain more about her diet and her general health… ah, modern technology – I can envisage us coming back here in twenty years to dig her up again with the next latest techniques to show a new group of archaeologists the way of things, as they were!

 Today we started preparing for all the measurements we’ll take over the next couple of days (or was that weeks?  I didn’t quite catch that part!)  However, a misty rain set in across the hills and down onto the lake so we had to adjourn to a local pub – not that anyone twisted our arms!  We finished the night at a party in town; one of the girls being a local, and the smoke that filled the room was thicker than usual and quite dreamy – if you get my drift!

 I can see what Dad likes about this life; working with a small close team, enjoying fireside drinks and interesting conversations on cold bleak nights – no sign of werewolves yet, Dad!  It would be nice to be on a more challenging assignment, but I’m sure that will come later on in the summer and we all look forward to that.  I suppose we need to earn our adventures just as you did… but didn’t it take you two years!

 Each day is a new adventure it seems and who knows what we might find out about our ancient teenage Celtic girl.  She was no older than Mayumi and me, but she was probably half way through an average life whereas we are probably a quarter to a fifth the way through ours.  It’s amazing what a couple of thousand years of compounded know how and science can do to a lifespan – but do we have as much stamina as the ancients or do we just lay about more when we’re young, saving our bones in the process?  Do we survive longer but on less physical work and less day-to-day adventure?  It makes one wonder about Noah – didn’t he live for 900 years?  If so, we’ve actually regressed and are on the improve (or was he a lazy sloth for the first few hundred years like we seem to be – forever thinking and contemplating the Gods!)  Best I pray more and start collecting some animals, two by two!

 

March 22nd

 Hi, Mayumi this time!  Bec’s too busy – I think she’s in love, no – don’t take the pen…

 No I’m not!  He’s just nice, that’s all…

 Yeah, I think you should both read nice as a four-letter word starting with L and ending in URV!!!  It’s rained nearly all week and Bec’s been keeping a booth warm at the pub for Jules every evening and most afternoons!  She’s going red at the ears now and I think smoke’s beginning to come out!!!  It’s OK Bec, it’s about time you got a boyfriend – I don’t remember you ever having one.  Beside, he’s really lovely – he’s English and charming and friendly and he’s constantly watching over her!  I’ve seen him Mum and Dad.  When we do dig and examine and measure, he’s always got his eye on Bec – he won’t learn a thing at this rate… neither will she, or me if it keeps bloody raining.  Jules is always getting her things and making her tea and lately they’ve been getting quite mushy… I think she’s going red again, but it really is quite lovely – I’m so happy for her.

 Now that the mushy stuff has begun she definitely won’t be learning anything at this rate, well at least not anything about archaeology!  She might learn a few things about pash rash and lockjaw, but then she’ll probably enjoy those much more than Dad will enjoy reading about it!  Hopefully the rain will stop soon and we can get back to work – that might distract the two of them and slow them down a bit… pray for sunshine Dad!!!  The rain’s leading your little girl astray!  Tee hee…

 

March 29th

 No exhausting epistles on love today Mum and Dad, not that anything’s wrong between me and Jules.  He’s really lovely Mum and of course Mayumi was right about us, but I’m not sure about the L.U.R.V. part and all its implications.  It’s probably a bit early for that, but it’s been fun though… more fun than I ever thought it would be and he is a wicked snog!  He bought me this lovely amulet; I’m not sure what it’s made of.  It has a few semi-precious stones that are surrounded by a sort of Celtic swirley thing with a rune at its centre!  Mayumi says I have to write that she thinks I haven’t taken it off since he gave it to me – I think she’s right!  I woke up with it around my neck this morning.  I’m starting to wonder if I’ll wake up with Jules one morning – oops, too much information!  Dad will be getting that Dad and daughter thing in his eyes after reading that; I bet he’s already booked himself a ticket before you’ve finished reading the letter!  Tee hee… I’d love to see that look in his eye, it’d be kinda cute to see him fret about his little girl, but I’m sure he’ll be cool just as he promised he would be!

 This week has been weird though!  It started out ordinary enough, same old dreary weather and the same bleak foreboding horizons.  I think it was the rain that started it all actually.  It softened the edges of our little excavation, which wasn’t that wide or that deep there being only one grave to expose, but one of the edges crumbled or slipped.  That was OK at first until we began digging it out and Mayumi (who has kept alert – unlike others in our group she reminds me) found a stray finger bone.  The problem was that it didn’t belong to our ancient Celtic girl and as we dug out the landslip we found that it had friends!  More carpal bones, an ulna and a radius!  At about this time the police were called in and it all got extremely weird as forensic officers came and stomped all over our dig in order to preserve the new one we’d partially uncovered.  They soon began finding fragments of clothes and other bones which quickly formed a complete body – and everything was pointing to it being a more modern body!

 We’ve all been questioned endlessly since, I’m not sure why – the decay of the body probably suggests that we weren’t even born when this person died.  This much we do know, though!  The body is that of a woman and she’s probably been here for some twenty years.  The owner of the Estate has been endlessly questioned and eventually detained and the whole dig’s been abandoned and left to the elements!  Everybody’s quite solemn now – even the pub’s no fun and Jules has become all dark and moody.   I suppose things like this affect us all differently and this is part of learning about relationships, but I do wish it didn’t happen… everything had been going so well!

 I suppose I shouldn’t be too selfish about it all as there are parents out there who are about to find out what happened to their daughter, and that is quite sad.  I’m actually not too perturbed by it all and I feel surprisingly calm, but then we did grow up with a fair bit of murder and mystery, so I suppose we’ve just become accustomed to it – Mayumi and I have been very watchful though.  The body seems to have been buried very much like the Celtic skeleton in a ritual death pose, with the arms bound behind and the head bowed into the dirt!  Somewhere out there, there is a person who put her here and they may be watching everything we’re doing and praying that we don’t find anything incriminating – as if a murderer would waste their time praying, I couldn’t handle the guilt – but then that’s probably the point!

March 30th

 It got weirder today, folks – if that’s at all possible!  It’s all over the papers and Mayumi’s got a secret!  There was something incriminating in that grave!  I was probably too busy drooling and drifting into a lovely English fog to notice anything odd about this new body’s bones, but before we reported the body to the police Mayumi found another bone that didn’t belong to the body – it was much older and it had odd markings on it… This bothers us both a lot, because the bone is not human and it has what looks like Celtic markings on the back of it – and a face on the front!  We’re not sure, but it could be an idol or some kind of ritualistic token.  Mayumi’s looking into it some more - discreetly via the Web.  We haven’t told anyone about it yet, but everyone’s a bit freaked out in general and strange things have been going on…

 We’ve got to go now… Jules has just arrived back and he’s starting to freak me out.  I told him about the thing (that’s what we’re calling it now) – I thought it’d be OK, but he just went white.  He wanted to see it and when he did he just left!  He came back later this evening and he had all our bags packed and we’ve got to go – he says it’s dangerous Dad – best you come… and be quick!

 

 Bec & May.

 

 

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